home Tlönistas, Volumen 4, Volumen 4 - Número 5 [4.5-24] Empathy: Teaching Kids Social-Emotional Skills through Games | Janine Berger

[4.5-24] Empathy: Teaching Kids Social-Emotional Skills through Games | Janine Berger

By Janine Berger


Mal criado, mal educado, inculto…

Rude, spoiled, mean, bully

Nobody wants that kid to be their kid.  Nobody wants to be remembered as having been that kid either.

But can kindness be taught?  Do you have to “force” a child to be nice to others?

“You can’t leave your room until you’re ready to apologize to your brother”

“I don’t care how ugly the sweater is, you say thank you to Grandma”

Then, of course, there’s the dialogue we’ve all had with our own parents:

“I want a candy!”

“Say please

“Please can I have candy?”


It’s only thing to teach the child certain superficial niceties, which tend to be different in each culture.  You do that by repeating and, sometimes by using rewards and/or punishments.

It’s another thing entirely to teach children to genuinely care for others.   It has been proven in numerous studies on babies that developmentally normal children are born able to recognize social cues such as joy and distress.  It takes a little longer for them to develop what we call “empathy” which is about understanding how someone else may view a situation and whether the other person is happy, angry or sad about it.  Then it takes time for them to learn how to act on their perceptions.

Simple card games can help kids reflect on what it means to be nice to others.  Here are two you can play with a child to help spark discussion.


You’ll need cards with pictures or descriptions of toys on them such as:


Building blocks An action figure A video game A poster Art supplies
A doll


A wading pool A bicycle A book A board game


You might also want the following cards for dramatic effect:


Game description

 The first player chooses a “toy” card. Flip a coin. If the result is heads, the spoiled child won’t like the present (flash the grumpy face, and make a convincingly repulsive noise to go with it: “EEEWWW!”) and you have to put it back in the deck.  If the result is tails (flash the happy face “Yippee!”), the spoiled child will like the present and you keep it to give him on his birthday.  Then the next player takes a card and the process is repeated by all the cards.

Whoever has the most cards at the end is the winner.

 Discuss how it feels when people aren’t properly grateful for presents.



 You will need 12 OBJECT cards, such as




money a pencil



candy medicine

a toy


a computer a hot bath

a telephone


a book a bed


You’ll also need 8 CHARACTER cards telling you why a character is sad, like the ones here:

A little boy lost his balloon A child misses her grandfather who lives far away
Two friends had an argument A cat is pregnant and  needs to give birth

A bird is sick



A baby has the flu

A dog is hungry There’s an electrical blackout and the kids are bored because there’s no TV.


Game description

 The player flips a coin: if it’s heads, the player takes an OBJECT card, if tails a CHARACTER card.

Each player keeps all their OBJECT cards.

Every time a player picks up a CHARACTER card, they have to look at their objects and see if they have anything that might help the character.  If they do, they keep the character card; if not, they return the CHARACTER card back to the pile.

The winner is whoever has the most character cards at the end.

These games will help you to open discussions about kindness with a child you love.

Note: These games are adapted from my forthcoming book:

The Quality Time Project: 10-minute games you can play with your 4 to 7 year old.



 (Foto de portada de artículo de Sasin Tipchai. Tomada de: https://pixabay.com/es/ni%C3%B1os-r%C3%ADo-el-agua-el-ba%C3%B1o-1822704/)

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